Nurses are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting patients and each other. They’re doing everything they can to keep everyone at the hospital safe. But what about those who have families at home?
Knowing how serious the pandemic had become and the nature of her job, Catherine Miller, R.N., a medical-surgical registered nurse at UF Health North, realized she would be putting her husband and three children at risk by coming home to them every day.
Because of that, Miller made one of the toughest decisions of her life — to isolate herself from her family to keep them safe.
For several weeks, Miller has physically been away from her loved ones. They are staying with her mother-in-law, who lives nearby, while she is staying at home.
Miller makes a point to call or connect via FaceTime with her family once or twice a day. She’s thankful to work a day shift, allowing her ample time to talk with them when she’s off work.
Along with regular phone calls, one of the things that helped Miller cope with the distancing was a sweet gesture from her middle child, Daniel. He placed all of his favorite stuffed toys on her bed the last night the family spent together. He told his mom the toys would keep her safe. Miller hasn’t moved the stuffed toys since Daniel placed them there.
“Every time I get home from work, they serve as a reminder that my family loves and supports me,” she said.
Miler keeps in touch with her eldest son, Jacob, by emailing him as much as she can. Jacob is on the autism spectrum, and this change in their family dynamics has been the hardest on him. Though Miller worries about Jacob, she is extremely proud of him for staying strong and following through with his schoolwork.
Though it’s easy to assume it’s only Miller making adjustments, she emphasizes how grateful she is to her entire family for their sacrifices. Her mother-in-law took the family in, with no questions asked, and helps the kids stay engaged with schoolwork and crafty activities. Her husband, who serves in the military, has an evolving schedule that can change at any time. Despite this, he stays dedicated to his work and is also thankful for his mother’s help and his wife’s sacrifice to keep the family safe.
Though Miller has only been with UF Health North since November 2019, she feels her co-workers are her second family.
“The team here has been very supportive, finding ways to take my mind off things,” Miller said. “My manager, Genevieve Lanouette, constantly checks on me to see if I’m OK. Work is close to my home in Yulee, and I’m so happy here.”
Although it’s been tough for Catherine to be away from her family, she is “proud to be a nurse and able to help during this situation.”
When pondering her family’s future, Miller said this pandemic has taught her how she can better protect them, such as taking off her work shoes in the car or changing clothes before coming in contact with her kids. She is already doing this while being away from her family and plans to continue the same routine as an extra layer of protection.
On the bright side, she can’t wait to physically embrace her family again. “It’s the little things, like hugs, that mean so much,” Miller said. “When this is over, I will be even more thankful to do little things like that.”